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books

Weekend Reads; also, Rereading, and Some Tweets on Tweeting

I am not a big re-reader, and I know I should be. I happen to read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy once a decade for some reason — not because I am a huge Le Carré fan or of the spy novel in general (I am neither) — but because there’s a mystery in its patient rhythms, in how the story progresses through ellipses and silences, that I still cannot crack. I figure I will read Maria Dermout’s The Ten Thousand Things again sometime soon, in the same way that I will watch Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love again or reread Francisco Arcellana’s “The Mats.” You know, just because.

We all, of course, have different relationships to texts (novelistic or filmic) at different ages, and our life experiences necessarily provide us with shifting lenses through which to read them. The books don’t change; we do.

A movie I found charming and sophisticated in my late teens now seems unwatchable and, well, icky; Woody Allen’s Manhattan is a perfect example. Watching Antonioni’s L’Avventura in your relatively carefree mid-’20s is a very different experience from watching it at a decade later as an unhappy and bitter divorcee.

While I am glad that neither my parents nor the librarian at my elementary and high schools kept me away from books that I “wasn’t yet ready for,” I am sure there were books of my youth that were clearly lost on me. One of those books was To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read in the Philippines before I was a teenager.

I remember almost nothing of it, in the same way I remember almost nothing of the film which I saw around the same time.

And back then I knew almost nothing of the South, or of the Civil Rights Movement, or the implications of the African Americans sitting in the rafters and standing up for Atticus Finch. (Was that scene in the book?)

So I read the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman in The Guardian without much to compare it to, and reviews of the book will inevitably compare it to closely to the first novel. I found the chapter quite engaging, with the sentences beautifully constructed, and was eager to read more — but perhaps I should re-read To Kill a Mockingbird first, with a sharper critical eye. But is it still called “re-reading” if I first read it without historical context, a world and a lifetime away?

  • The other book coming out on July 14 — and the one I’m most excited about — is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Here’s a powerful excerpt, in “Letter to My Son” (The Atlantic)
  • “The internet means we’re a community and there’s no such thing as oversharing. Even this identity, Linda. We’re one in a way we never can be in real life. We’re an online forum past midnight.” Christine V. Nguyen, “Real People and Fake Friends: Linda Evangelista” (Entropy)
  • James Brubaker’s “Four Sci-Fi Variations on a Grandmother” (The Austin Review)
  • Two stories with something in common (guess): Hector Tobar’s “Secret Stream” (from ZYZZYVA, via Electric Literature)  and Emily Wortman-Wunder’s “Trespassing” (The Masters Review)
  • “She speaks to you as if you could speak back. Find a voice in your throat that wasn’t there before. She asks you questions, one after another, and though you can only answer Yes or No, you wonder if you are choosing the correct answer, or if one Yes or No in the wrong sequence could change everything, could alter your fate.” From earlier this year, Sam Martone’s chapbook “An Object You Cannot Lose” (Cartridge Lit)
  • Kerry Howley’s “The Cage of You” (Granta)
  • You might not agree with the assessment that “Elvis’s musical lift-off was never a simple black and white equation; it was more like a backroom radio left on between stations to pick up a tingly mix of all the different sounds in the air that month,” but what a sentence, what an essay. Ian Penman (again), from 2014, on Elvis; “Shapeshifter” (London Review of Books)
  • Otessa Moshfegh’s “The Weirdos” (The Paris Review)

Also, I thought I’d get back into using Twitter, but I clearly don’t know how to use it. I tweeted these below:

I suspect my reticence on Twitter has to do with a kind of tweet performance anxiety

Because I recognize two warring impulses in myself, or to be precise, my Twitter self, or the self I project on Twitter.

The first is equivalent to the nonchalant toss of a gum wrapper into a waste bin,

Where, like those early, tentative, Facebook statuses, I announce to the world that I’m eating a ham sandwich for lunch,

Or that the disco version of the Star Wars theme, pew-pew sounds and all, was playing at Safeway as I placed a jar of peanut butter in my cart,

And by treating Twitter as such — the repository of thoughts, relevant only to myself, flung into the ether —

reinforces the notion that I’m having a pointless monologue, except that other people may be listening in, but I know they don’t.

The second is the mystifying pressure, mostly self-generated, to announce, and not just retweet, something that promotes my own “content”

like a new blog entry, or an old blog entry, which of course implies the infrequency and a quick exhaustion of tweets on my end,

Or write some retweetable bon mot, with a labored incorporation of ‘80s song lyrics, or some nugget of wisdom mined with great effort,

Or some cruelly precise act of derision, or a Seinfeldian observation about the world we live in and life in general,

Each word, each character, polished and gleaming, chosen with care and agonizing deliberation

but projecting that same indifferent quality as the swing of the arm throwing that aforementioned gum wrapper.

And between these two overlapping compulsions one must add the need to engage with other Twitterers, to seek them out, to give praise, to follow

And perhaps retweet their words, which I suppose acts as a kind of validation,

though I myself traffic in the same cheap thrill when I receive the notification that I have been retweeted or favorited.

And so this, in combination with my two warring Twitter selves, explains this peculiar anxiety as I plunge into Twitter again.

Follow me, if you like: @thewilyfilipino.

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